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franklin county times

Incentives plan fails on tie vote

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
June 27, 2001
For the third straight meeting, the Meridian Planning Commission failed to pass an incentives package designed to promote residential development inside the city limits.
Only six of nine commission members attended a Tuesday meeting where the vote was deadlocked at 3-3 on a motion to endorse the package and forward it to the city council.
Chairman Jenifer Buford failed to attend the meeting as did members Billy Mitts and Evelyn Polk.
Bill Phillips, who served as acting chairman in Buford's absence, led the charge against the package, casting the vote to tie the matter and then casting the vote to "table until further notice."
Phillips' term on the planning commission actually expired in April 2000, and, according to city records, Mayor John Robert Smith has neither nominated a successor nor renominated Phillips for a new term. Planning commission members are nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the city council.
The incentives proposal was presented by Meridian Planning Manager Don Jemison after more than a year of consultations with local developers and builders. It was designed to promote growth by giving builders an incentive to build new subdivisions inside the city.
It would offer developers an initial property tax break for subdivision development and set up a fund ($200,000 annually) for the city to pay for water and sewer infrastructure in new subdivisions. The costs to the city of providing infrastructure would be repaid over the course of a few years as homes were sold and occupied.
Commission members who voted against the measure said they did not see a benefit to attract potential homeowners into the city.
Phillips instead told Jemison the city should relax its building codes to draw developers into the city.
Jemison told Phillips that the property tax portion of the incentive would be of benefit to homeowners because they would not have to pay taxes on the lot at a higher developed rate until a certificate of occupancy was issued for the home. Currently, residents who begin building new homes begin paying property taxes at the higher rate as soon as plans for construction are approved.
Commission member David Kennard told Phillips the incentive was not designed to provide potential homebuyers a break. Kennard said the incentives were designed to promote new home starts.
Commission member David Stephens was in favor of passing the measure on to the city council and letting it decide if the incentives were the right step to take. Stephens, obviously frustrated, said to keep postponing the matter made no sense.
Although the issue was tabled, Phillips told the commission his opinion was already made regarding the infrastructure incentive saying, "That's it till doomsday."
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3226, or e-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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